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Joe Biden could return to Irish roots as US president

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When Joe Biden visited his ancestral roots in Carlingford he turned to an inquisitive Secret Service man and said “Man, you’re in heaven.”

That was four years ago. Mr Biden was vice president.

He wants to return, but next time as president. For now, heaven can wait.

For Ronald Reagan it was Ballyporeen. For Barack Obama it was Moneygall. For Joe Biden it is Carlingford. Or Ballina. 

His Irishness means a lot to him. He told Donald Trump during the recent televised debate that people like him “look down their nose on… Irish Catholics like me.”

Joe Biden has never been to Northern Ireland, but he’s done the next best thing. 

Four years ago, he arrived in Carlingford, just a few miles from the border. Now the people of Carlingford have begun a campaign to help, first of all, get him elected. And then invite him back.

Local man Eamonn Thornton spent a lot of time with Mr Biden on his first visit to the Cooley Peninsula and remembers walking him towards Finnegan’s Pub, once owned by distant relatives of the presidential candidate.

“Having dropped off the vice president, the Secret Service cars went on down to turn at the end of the road,” he says. 

“As he was coming towards the pub this Secret Service guy said to me ‘Where the hell are we’ and the vice president happened to overhear and said: ‘Man, you’re in heaven’.”

Many shop windows in Carlingford now display “Irish For Biden” posters.

Genealogist Megan Smolenyak says “he’s about as Irish-American as you can get. He’s about five eighths Irish.”

She got to know Joe Biden when she wrote a piece about his Irish roots.

“He just called me out of the blue one day when he was vice president,” she says.

“And then he started to invite me each St Patrick’s Day when he has an event. 

“And so I’ve gone to perhaps six or seven of those events and there’s a lot of big name politicians, but there’s also average Joes like myself. 

“And that right there gives you a little taste for Joe, he treats everybody the same. It doesn’t matter what your station is in life. He really is the caring person that you see when you watch television.” 

Caroline Feeney, a former intern for Hillary Clinton, says a Biden presidency would maintain US interest in Northern Ireland.

She told the BBC NI’s The View: “I’m hearing from his close advisers on the campaign trail that he has said that he wants to visit Ireland within the early stages of his presidency and that would be both north and south. 

“So, while he may have strong links to Mayo and Carlingford, particularly with his family ties there, he is aware of how strong a message it would be to come to Northern Ireland also.”

Mr Biden recently fired a warning shot across Downing Street’s bows over Brexit by warning that any undermining of the Good Friday Agreement would jeopardise a future trade deal with the US.